Our heritage comes alive this weekend

Friday, September 24, 2004

A special word, "heritage," resonates throughout the McCook community and the surrounding countryside. Not only is it the name of McCook's annual celebration, which we are observing this weekend, but it is carried forth by every family who calls this place home.

Our heritage ... our traditions ... are pathways for life. As examples, let's look at the special people we are honoring this week. How different they are -- in age, profession and plans for the future -- yet how alike they are in pride and gratitude for their hometown.

Ervain and Nadine (Klein) Friehe, the parents of the 2004 Honor Family, expressed the sentiment after their selection was announced. Ervain, who has called McCook home for 80 years, declared: "We've been around the world twice ... and this is the best place anywhere. The people, the climate, the area. They're all wonderful."

That deep, heartfelt feeling epitomizes the love that McCookites feel for the community and the people who inhabit it. And the devotion lasts, even after jobs and circumstances draw McCook residents to other places.

As proof of this allegiance, you need look no further than this year's Heritage Days Grand Marshal, Ernie Weyeneth, and Parade Marshal, Linda Hein. Both are members of the McCook High School Class of 1965 and have contributed greatly to McCook through the years, even though they now live in Lincoln.

Linda recently departed after living in this area all her life and serving as site supervisor for the Norris Home for the past 13 years. She moved to Lincoln to join her husband, Rick, who has a business there. But, Linda says, "someday, somehow we'll be back. I love this town."

Ernie, who grew up here and attended both McCook High School and McCook College, now serves as president and CEO of the Kimmel Foundation, the third largest charitable foundation in the state. He continues to keep in touch with the McCook area, aiding worthy causes and helping bring special attractions, such as the recent fan exhibit, to his hometown. His mother, Leila, still lives in McCook. Many will also remember his late father, Leonard, better known as "Scoop."

Heritage is not only about the past and the present. It is about the future as well. That's why we are so proud of this year's king, Chris Lyons, and princesses, Alison Wilcox and Ashley Kilgore. Seniors in high school, the royal trio has distinguished themselves by their activities and their heritage. Alison's great-great-great grandfather, William Fitch, was one of Red Willow County's first pioneer settlers. Members of Chris's family have been in the area for five generations, while Ashley's family is in their first and second generations here, with her father coming from Texas 10 years ago for a job with Burlington Northern-Santa Fe. All three of the honored youth will be staying around, as all will enroll in McCook Community College following graduation from McCook High School.

That's the good thing about a hometown. Whether your family has been around for generations ... or recently arrived ... you're welcome to put down roots and share the heritage that makes this place special.

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